By Connor Thompson '14
In a recent poll, 645 Hendrix alumni from across
the decades were questioned on issues pertaining to their personal political
beliefs and the way these beliefs shape their opinions about recent
controversial policy decisions and the upcoming presidential election.
poll was conducted by Dr. Jay Barth '87, M.E. and Ima Graves Peace Distinguished
Professor of Politics, and Roby Brock '88 of Talk Business, an Arkansas-based
media outlet dedicated to statewide politics and business.
Barth and Brock have collaborated on polls that focus on Arkansans' attitudes
toward local, state, and national politics. On occasion, Barth also involves
Hendrix students in polling work.
In general, the results of the poll
indicate that Hendrix alumni, taken as a group, are politically active and lean
to the leftward end of the ideological spectrum. This, perhaps, is not much of a
surprise given Hendrix's reputation, but closer analysis of the
cross-tabulations reveal some interesting insights.
Two questions examined
hypothetical scenarios for the 2012 general election. In both, President Barack
Obama is the overwhelming choice of Hendrix alumni.
In a two-person race
between Obama and leading GOP candidate Mitt Romney, Obama leads 65%-30% (with
the remaining undecided).
The second question examines possible implications
of a third-party Ron Paul candidacy on a general election contest between Obama
and Romney. Obama's results remain largely unaffected by a Paul candidacy while
Romney's results seem to decline roughly in proportion to the number of voters
who would choose Paul. In the generational cross-tabulations, Paul's support is
a mixed bag with a slight skew towards younger respondents.
A majority of
respondents across each decade responded favorably to the job President Obama
has been doing. Alumni from more recent decades do express slightly greater
levels of support for the President. Hendrix alumni are also positively disposed
towards Obama's signature legislative accomplishment: federal health care
reform. Alumni across the decades indicate support for the Affordable Care Act
with younger alumni the most supportive of the plan.
On the questions asking
for self-identification in party and ideology most respondents across the
decades identified as both "Democrat" and "liberal." However, the majority of
the respondents from the 1960s and 1970s identified themselves as "moderate"
ideologically while still remaining firmly "Democratic" in their party leanings.
This, perhaps, runs counter to stereotype of student radicalism in the 1960s and
1970s. Moreover, there are indications that these students have grown more
moderate since their college days; the number of alumni who identified as "more
conservative" for the 1970s especially is higher in comparison with the other
On one of the most discussed social issues of contemporary times,
most Hendrix alumni feel that gay couples should be legally allowed to marry;
unsurprisingly, the percentage generally increases as one moves toward younger
generations with more than three in four alums from the past decade supporting
Finally, one question examined where alumni get their
news. Here, there is an interesting trend in the cross-generational results: the
percentage of people who selected "radio," while relatively marginal overall,
continually increases as one moves from older respondents to younger ones. It is
striking that radio — seemingly an archaic medium of communication for 2012 — is
most popular among the younger generations. For alumni from the 2000s decade,
radio is the second most popular news source after internet/blogs. This seems to
suggest that modern radio, be it Rush Limbaugh or Robert Siegel, has made a
comeback in shaping the political discourse and that perhaps it has become an
attractive alternative to the talking heads/sound bite culture of cable
Connor Thompson '14 is a philosophy major from Little Rock.